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AnoHana

The Loves-Hangin'-Out-With-
the-Walking-Dead ROSSMAN

Ho. Lee. Shit.... Goddammit, Japan, you got me... *SNIFF* You got me good. I was expecting a nice, light, fluffy, goofy, funny, ghost story with the anime series known as AnoHana (whose full name is just too damn long to type over and over again, and translates into the awkward "We Still Don't Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day"), but instead I got the most heart-wrenching, yet also the sweetest tale about a group of teenagers who lost a friend when they were children and are still dealing with the pain almost 10 years later. Seriously, AnoHana ranks up there with Grave of the Fireflies in terms of incredibleness mixed with audience eye moistening participation... Okay, that may be an exaggeration (NOTHING really comes close to Grave for making even a Nazi sadist cry), but AnoHana still attains a dramatic brilliance for its valiant effort.

THIS is what I'm talking about, all you fans of the hyperly overrated and rancid Clannad... THIS is how you make a drama that makes its audience experience the same emotions that the onscreen characters feel! Yes, the characters cry in AnoHana (and truth be told, maybe a bit too much), but they've EARNED their tears here. They're not just weeping on top of shitty, mopey music in order to tell the audience that they've got to feel sad now because it's the end of the story and hell, why not?! Nor are the characters crying over a simple missed opportunity to tell a boy that he gets them all moist in their panties before he chooses another vaj to pound; here the people involved have to deal with death, heavy guilt, parental disappointment, oodles of self-loathing, more death, and having the entire school mistakenly think they're whores. Literally whores. Like they accept money for sex. Mmmmmmm, whores..... The teens in this show have to put up with a shit-ton of grief, yet they persevere, even when one of their estranged childhood friends starts claiming that he's able to see the ghost of the girl who was part of their group (and who died because of their actions) all those years ago.

And goddammit... That last episode. Jaime took a picture of me with tears running down my face for some sort of blackmail later, I'll bet; but by admitting that my eyes became faucets of pussyness while watching the finale of AnoHana here myself, hopefully that ruins her plans. Yes, I was weeping like a willow during that final half hour. I am man enough to tell you all that I DO in fact have a soul (I'm not a goddamn robot), and that it had turned into a puddle of tragically heart-rending goo by the last episode. And I loved this show for it.

Okay, so I've gotten the girly emotional part of my review out of the way, so now onto the plot! Things start out with high schooler Jinta sitting at home playing video games while some cute girl in a white sun dress starts pestering him like a 7 year-old with her silly, dumb questions (go on, talk to a real 7 year-old for ten minutes to understand Jinta's frustration). He gets annoyed by her childish antics, but tries his best to ignore her, especially while his father's around. We find out soon enough (so it's not really a spoiler) that this girl — one Menma — isn't real, as the real Menma died some 10 years previous in a terrible accident. Though whether this grown up version Menma is really a ghost or just a figment of Jinta's stressed-out brain Jinta can't tell.

Soon though, with the help of the spectre, Jinta starts reconnecting with the group of friends that he and Menma used to hang out with as 2nd graders — a pack that used to call themselves the Super Peace Busters (they'd "bust the world until it's peaceful," or something like that; they weren't out to "bust the peace of the world"), which had fallen apart soon after her death all those years ago.

It's this group of kids and their personal guilt over the tragedy that occurred in their youth that makes this series so affecting. Other than Jinta and Menma, there's Anaru, who seems to have started the whole "incident" in the past with a childlike question directed at Jinta, and who's still confused by how she feels about the boy in the present; Poppo, the enthusiastic kid who travels the world now in order to forget his role in the accident; Yukiatsu, who was always jealous of the outgoing leader of the group (Jinta) and his relationship with Menma; and Tsuruko, the quiet one who never learned to speak her mind, but instead focused on her academics in order to erase some memories she isn't proud of in her past.

Due to Jinta's well known mental collapse and his becoming a shut-in during the previous year, the other remaining members of the Super Peace Busters simply think he's losing his mind when he starts to bring up the terrible ordeal they all lived through as children. Then they think he's just a complete sociopath when he makes some passing references to Menma being a ghost who's now living with him. Since he's the only one who can supposedly see and hear her, the whole SPB crew begins to either pity Jinta or hate him for making it all up, or worse, detest him for truly being the only one to whom Menma's spirit really can appear to.

Things unfold absolutely beautifully from there as friendships are re-knit or dragged through the mud, all the while the living kids try to figure out why Menma's stuck on this plane of existence as a ghost, and what they can do to help her move on... If indeed she's truly there and not just dancing around in Jinta's broken noggin.

There's a whoooole lot more to this story than what I just gave you here, but considering it's all about the emotional journey of each of the characters, if I tell you too much more it'll just hurt your viewing pleasure instead of helping it. And when you watch AnoHana (and you SHOULD), just make sure you have a box of Kleenex handy, and no manly friends around who'll mock you for your watery eyes in the second half of this too-short 11 episode series. They won't cry themselves, but that's only because they'll be repeatedly pinching their own cocks through a hole in their front pockets when they think you're not looking. Trust me, I caught Carl doing that very thing. He claimed he was just masturbating... I don't know which is more creepy.

I was already in love with everything about this series before it was done, but it wasn't until the second to last episode that it became totally obvious to me why I was so enamored with it. That was when I realized that the people involved in AnoHana's creation were the same main crew behind my fave high school rom-com ever made, Toradora. The emotional roller coaster of a plot, the way they make you like every character (even the dick in the group), and the gorgeous character designs... Everything in this production was pretty special. Animation studios of Japan: WhatEVER these guys (director, writer, character designer) want to make next, give them a blank fucking check and free reign. Even if it's a hentai OVA... Hell, ESPECIALLY if it's a hentai OVA! I need to see more from these guys pronto!

*SPOILERS*

And that surprise ending when Menma got sucked into Hell when that seance went horribly wrong... That was like the ULTIMATE incredible tear-jerker moment. You wouldn't see any Hollywood director try a twist ending like that!

*END SPOILERS*

Oh hey, that reminds me! Old grade school friends (I know some of you read this site), remember that time when Snotlick died when we were kids? Is anybody being haunted by him now? Do we need to get together and find a way to send him off to the next life? It's the least we could do. After all we did push him in front of that train.

So, what did I think of AnoHana (aka Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai)? I find that I have to give it 23 out of 24 Sparkling Memories of Youth. Maybe too much crying (both from the characters and from me), but it was put together so masterfully that I really didn't mind. This isn't sappy, schlocky, "our only intent is to make you feel sorry for these shitty characters" storytelling (like Clannad), this is "high quality, emotional, nothing but great characters, anime smack." This is the good shit, not the shitty shit, my friends. And really all you have to do to get me to tear up again is either shout out "MENMAAAAAA!" or quietly and happily state "You found me :)"

Also, I simply love the opening and ending songs and corresponding animation. They were the cherry on top of this most non-heinous show. The ending especially (with the three main female characters singing it) matched the mood of the series perfectly.

Oh, and I'm just yanking your crank about that "Menma goes to Hell" thing, you gullible assholes. I love you guys.


JAIME

So there we were, all watching this Japanese anime show about some dead girl and her old group of friends, and it just kept getting sadder and sadder. There were a lot of sniffles and sleeves reaching for eyes, and I began blubbering like a beauty queen who just had her tiara taken away for being caught on camera going down on Lindsay Lohan. The room was getting very choked up as a whole.

At one point my brother just said "Fuck it! I'm just going to cry. I'm not going to hide it. Give me that box of tissues. Nobody say a goddamn word about this! Or I will CUT you!" Then he just let the waterworks flow. That seemed to be everyone's cue to just let loose with their own welled up sadness. We went through 6 boxes of tissues during the last 3 or 4 episodes of this show. That only made me wonder why my brother had over 15 boxes of Kleenex in his closet. Actually, it made me NOT want to wonder.

Okay, it was sad, but was it good? Yeah. I liked it well enough. It's no Steel Magnolias (Note from the Rossman: Thank CHRIST!), but I enjoyed it. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.


CARL

The Rossman has got to learn to shut up about spreading dirty lies! I swear to god I was just whacking it there on the couch. I wasn't pinchin' my junk to keep from crying. Who the hell does that? Right?! I mean, only dudes whack it whereever they want, but only girly men cry about dead little girls. Pansy!

This show is retarded. You're retarded if you like it. I hate retarded things.